As another school year gets underway, many stepfamilies are adjusting to new routines. Stepchildren may be adjusting to different expectations at Mom and Dad’s house with homework and after-school activities. Stepparents may be forced to alter everyday patterns to accomodate bus schedules or after-school pickup.
The changing routines can wreak havoc on a stepfamily already struggling with fragile egos and tense emotions.
For stepparents, navigating a successful path through the back to school maze takes a calm spirit and flexible attitude.
I recall stressful mornings of years’ past as I struggled to get out the door to my full-time job while making sure our four children had breakfast, a packed lunch, school papers signed, an after-school pickup plan, and were headed to the bus by 7:30. I recall telling a counselor during our early years of marriage, “School mornings are too stressful and I’m not sure how to change it.”
Oftentimes, the only thing we can change to make stepfamily living less stressful is ourselves. I couldn’t change the crazy schedule we lived for several years with kids navigating between households, stressful jobs, and defiant attitudes. But I could change how I reacted to the stress of the situation.
When I made an intentional effort to stay calm during the heat of a battle with one of my stepchildren, I made strides toward a positive outcome while resolving the conflict. When I chose to stay flexible through an ever-changing back and forth routine with my stepchildren, I was better able to meet the demands required of me with those routines.
I’m not saying it was easy. I like routine and I want the routine to stay the same every day. But that’s simply not possible in stepfamilies.
I like an orderly home with school papers put in place, and homework assignments completed on time. But I learned to adjust to the erratic ways of teen-agers who seem to work best with papers scattered all around while completing a project, or head-banging music that helps them think while they finish their paper at midnight (which was always restricted to their bedroom!)
Back to school routines create yet another stressful period as stepfamilies make adjustments to accommodate one another. But with a flexible attitude and a calm spirit, we can help our stepchildren adjust to their new routines and thrive in their new school surroundings, creating an environment in our home that benefits each one of us.
How is your back to school routine going? Does it need a dose of flexibility or an extra effort toward a calm spirit?